Sunday, March 05, 2017

Too many bases, a real hero, and more: Books recently read

The demands of my job preclude a lot of book reading (and blogging), except on the commuter train or bus. Here are some recently finished reads.
  • Base Nation by David Vine. A cause familiar to this longtime Lew Rockwell reader and Ron Paul supporter (I still am; his critiques of Trump are worth reading, not the usual lefty idiocy, even though Trump's all we've got now). As gentleman George McGovern said campaigning in 1972, "Come home, America." In a way it's hard for me: like the neocons part of me likes the idea of America rather than someone else as the lone military superpower with clean-cut "little Americas," big bases, in places such as Germany. I'm anti-war, pro-military: I never served and probably wasn't fit to serve, but I wear a Navy leather flight jacket as a tribute (not stolen valor; active-duty and veterans give it the thumbs-up). Authentic American conservatism wasn't about a big standing army and an overseas empire; those were part of a liberal political crusade. Vine is fair, noting that it largely began with Roosevelt's run-up to World War II, not with conservatives. But 50 years ago liberals were different; social conservatives (very much in the yes-sir on-duty military mode) who really wanted to help the world. But as this liberal writer notes, our many military bases abroad brutally affect the people whose countries we occupy (Vine describes how we horribly treated the island of Diego Garcia, for example, which you can look up). Filter out Vine's liberal sermonizing (ripoff of Christian ethics) about "gender" (anti-masculine; the military being masculine, that is, good at brutal fighting, is bad?!) and "people of color" (anti-white nonsense; Vine is a white liberal) and a good Christian will agree on the social evils this occupation causes, from prostitution (a kind of slavery) to abandoned women and children. (As one anti-military Lew Rockwell writer has said, underneath the spit-shine surface, military culture can be rotten; I'll add that even though military values and goals work well with conservative values, as a creature of the government, the military's not really conservative. In some ways it's a perfect social laboratory.) There's government waste of money (a budget where $1 billion is a rounding error, Vine writes) with bases for their own sake ("the self-licking ice-cream cone" or something else: Vine gives the example of private security hired to protect civilian cooks, whose job was to... feed the security guards). From this book I learned what "lily-pad" bases are, small and supposedly temporary or foreign-owned. Vine mentions that a withdrawal of overseas forces appeals to Americans across the political spectrum. Some of his claims about costs are just guesses. I wonder how much of this presentation compromises national security. But I appreciate the argument that with modern fast travel, we might not need lots of overseas bases anymore for actual national security. America First!
  • Badge 387: The Story of Jim Simone, America's Most Decorated Cop by Robert Sberna. The conservative feel-good true story of a brave, wounded combat veteran turned hard-working, conscientious career cop, recently mandatorily retired from 30 years on the Cleveland force and still working for a suburban town's police. His nickname, which he modestly disclaims, is "Supercop." A glimpse of war's horror: recently hospitalized, he had a flashback so again he was a 20-year-old sergeant in Vietnam: "Where are my men?"
  • Out West by Tim Slessor. Part of American history I don't know well. From this retired BBC journalist (who lived out West for a couple of years 50 years ago and loves the place and people) I got a fair-minded lesson on the subject, from Little Big Horn to the Wyoming cattle wars of the 1890s, neither romanticizing nor demonizing the Indians, for example, or Custer for that matter.
  • Dead Certain: The Presidency of George W. Bush by Robert Draper. A sympathetic account of the man and thus valuable against all the leftist hate. A likable good ol' boy, sort of (Draper describes him getting the Crawford ranch: a city boy not interested in farming), different from me but sounding many of the right cultural notes and smarter than people give him credit for. Plus as recently as 2000 he talked conservative common sense about a humble foreign policy. Then 9/11 Changed Everything™ so he invaded Iraq for no good reason. Seems like a bait-and-switch, why I will never vote for a mainstream Republican nationally again. Trump obviously isn't one. If Bush really was the power behind the Iraq war, not Cheney or someone else, he's even more monstrous than I thought. Here's one of Bob Wallace's posts on him. Bush is from an old New England liberal Republican family; I think Bush the conservative evangelical was a character Karl Rove created.
  • Malled by Caitlin Kelly. Like many young people I tried working in retail, I can honestly say not for spending money but to survive until I got something more substantial. I understand the definitive book on this subject is Nickeled and Dimed, which I guess I'll have to read. Anyway, in this one a laid-off Canadian journalist not quite slums/goes undercover, working a day or two a week for about two years at an upscale mall chain store in her New York suburb. The nature of the work is it's not meant as a livelihood; to the company you're disposable, and yes, snotty customers disrespect you too. And it's not for people my and Kelly's age; it's for a flexible young person with stamina. A well-written tribute to the hard-working young blacks and Hispanics commuting from the city to work these jobs because they had no other option. A conservative argument, not in the book as I recall: raise the minimum wage like the left wants and they wouldn't even have that.


  1. Subic Bay--I remember the place and Alongapo, the Filipino city nearby, as a dump and a place where Filipinas were turned into prostitutes. At one time the Philippines received as rent for the Subic Bay naval facility land, $900 million annually. Subic Bay was decommissioned in the early 1990s, the best thing that could ever happen to the Philippines. As I undestand it, the area has been turned into an enterprise zone and is doing much better than the Naval slum that it used to be. There is a lesson "somewhere" in all of this. We do not belong as occupiers; we are not suited to it, culturally.

    1. Vine writes about the Filipino government evicting us from Subic Bay and Clark Field/Air Force Base (a natural disaster had damaged Clark anyway) and how we have sneaked back into the Philippines.

  2. Another of Vine's points: if we can send ordinary troops from home to trouble spots so fast now, do we need the Marines anymore? Small — by law something like 1/8 the Army's size — mobile army, by mission and thus administratively integrated with the Navy so it speaks Navy lingo. The concept makes sense but they haven't been used as Marines since Inchon in 1950; in Vietnam and Iraq they were used exactly like the Army.

    1. You can argue that armed-forces unification at the top in 1947, what's now the Defense Department, with its accompanying closer integration of the services, eliminating duplication (or at least it should), means no more Marines, exactly one of the things the Navy Department feared about unification, another being the newly independent Air Force possibly taking away naval aviation, which didn't happen because carrier-based flying is that different (Marine pilots are naval aviators). Plus the British did it after World War I and it failed.


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